JERUSALEM (Feb. 2)
Details of a two day engagement in which three British soldiers were fatally wounded and 15 Arab terrorists were killed — termed by army officers the most difficult and warlike battle of the current Palestine disorders — reached here today. The third British victim was Corporal E.B. Blacken, of the Ulster regiment, who died today of wounds received in the engagement.
Troops and Royal Air Force bombing planes participated in the clash with the Arab band, which occurred near the Umm el Fahm village, in the subdistrict of Jenin, central Palestine. With 15 terrorists officially reported dead, military quarters in Haifa expressed the belief the number was larger, but the exact casualty total could not be ascertained because of the hilly and wooded nature of the country.
The battle started at noon Monday when a band of 40 ambushed troops, killing two and wounding two. The troops took a strategic position and wirelessed headquarters for planes, which were rushed to the spot and heavily bombed the band. The battle raged through the night, the troops using searchlights to spot the bandits. At dawn, reinforcements from Nathania and Tel Aviv arrived and surrounded the area on a three-mile front, progressing slowly under the protection of war planes until the area had been cleaned up. One plane was hit by Arab gunfire.
Terrorism was also renewed in the Jerusalem district and elsewhere. Heavy shooting was reported at Ataroth, Beth Hakerem and Mikor Chaim, with Jewish Ghaffirs (auxiliary policemen) replying to the gunfire. Two Arab Ghaffirs were attacked and one of them seriously wounded.
A police station at Bethlehem, not far from Rachel’s Tomb, was heavily fired upon by a small band operating between Bethlehem and Hebron and reportedly led by the notorious Assa Battat, suspected in the slaying of J.L. Starkey, British archaeologist. Police replied, but no casualties were reported.
With the renewal of widespread terrorism, Government censorship measures have been considerably intensified. In addition to the usual scrutiny of press cables, the authorities are censoring outgoing and incoming telephone calls. According to Davar, Hebrew daily, incoming and outgoing mail is being opened.
The three children of a Hebron police official were slightly injured by broken glass when several shots were fired at his home at midnight. Simultaneously, shots were fired at a British constable returning from duty, but he was not hit. A Jewish soap factory was completely destroyed by fire. Arson was suspected.
Ezekiel Altman, 23-year-old Jewish Ghaffir, is being tried before the Jerusalem military court on charges of firing upon an Arab truck, the first Jew to be tried for such an offence. He is alleged to have fired 17 shots from his service rifle at a truck on Dec. 20 in the vicinity of a Jewish-owned quarry on the Jaffa-Jerusalem road.
Three witnesses for the prosecution, including a corporal, testified regarding the shots and said the bullets had caused the death of a child. The corporal said he discovered on investigating several empty cartridges, the tracks of a single person, and also the coat of the accused, who was absent from his Ghaffir’s station for three hours. An empty cartridge similar to Altman’s was found on the scene of the shots, the corporal said. The hearing is continuing.